Thursday 19 May 2022

Dangerous Misinformation from the New Zealand Ministry of Health

I'm working from home for the next wee while.

Today, someone came into our office who'd just completed seven days of Covid isolation. 

I asked whether he'd cleared a negative rapid antigen test.

He said he hadn't taken one. And, shocked to hear that he could still be infectious, he went off to get a test - which came out positive.

The Ministry of Health guidelines say only to isolate for seven days and that no test is required. Indeed, the Ministry of Health says that a positive test after seven days can be ignored

You can end your self-isolation after 7 days

If you are still sick, stay home until you are well and for 24 hours after you no longer have symptoms. 

You do not need to wait for an official message to leave isolation. You may receive a text message confirming your isolation period has ended.

Your Household Contacts can complete their isolation at the same time as you, as long as their Day 7 test was negative and they have no new or worsening symptoms. If their tests are positive, they need to begin 7 days of isolation as someone with COVID-19.

You do not need a negative test result

You do not need a negative RAT result to return to work or school. If you did take a RAT, the result would likely show as positive but that does not mean you are infectious.

I drove home rather than stick around, and I'm not going back for a while. I'm the only one who wears a mask at the office, and everyone else will be a close contact. I err on the cautious side. Fortunately, our office respects a diversity of risk-tolerances and is happy to accommodate my working from home. 

Last year, when RATs were first coming in, the Ministry had been looking at using them as a way of clearing people after a period of infectiousness rather than as primary diagnostic. While they're far less accurate at the start of infections, and especially with Omicron, they're decent at clearing people after a period of infectiousness.

And I'd remembered actual-expert Anne Wyllie having said that this was not a crazy way at all of using RATs. 

So I asked Wyllie what she made of the Ministry's advice. Perhaps some new research had come out that I'd missed; I asked what she might point to. 

She replied:


Yale's expert on Covid testing, who had just cycled home with a giant novelty cheque for getting a well-deserved prize for her work on Covid testing, describes the Ministry of Health's advice on return-to-work/school as "dangerous misinformation." 

We have gotten ourselves into a bad spot here.

For two years, everyone trained themselves to just do whatever Bloomfield said. And that was basically good enough at a population level. But now what MoH says is taken as "must dos" for schools and places of employment rather than dangerously misleading lower-bounds on what should be done. 

It would be great if any of the various research groups funded to study misinformation ever turned their eye to Ashley Bloomfield. He provides a fair bit of it. 

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